Nine months after approaching village officials about putting a fence around her backyard, Riverside resident Deborah Zuckswerth is finally getting her wish. But it wasn’t easy.

Zuckswerth held her breath during the Aug. 1 meeting of the village board, where President Ben Sells cast the deciding vote to allow a zoning variation needed for the open-style aluminum fence. The vote was 4-2 with trustees Jean Sussman and Doug Pollack voting no. Trustees Joseph Ballerine, Patricia Collins and Michael Foley joined Sells in voting for the variation.

“Even though I obtained the approval, it’s bittersweet,” said Zuckswerth, who wants the fence so her dog can roam without supervision through the yard of her Byrd Road home. “I feel defeated and exhausted. I’m supposed to feel happy, but I’m exhausted.”

Whether the village board will ultimately decide to try to make it easier for homeowners who want to make smaller-scale improvements, such as fences, to their properties, is still an unanswered question.

Ballerine and Foley were tasked with looking at potential recommendations for changes to the zoning process to make it more user-friendly for homeowners.

“It ties into the Zoning Board of Appeals process. Is there a way to improve the process so it’s more easily accessible and there’s a faster turnaround?” asked Village Manager Peter Scalera, who said he expects a report soon from the trustees.

In Zuckswerth’s case, the village board in May voted 4-2 to lower the fee required to bring the matter to the Zoning Board of Appeals, from $1,000 to $250. In addition, the board waived the requirement of having a verbatim transcript of the hearing.

Zoning board members unanimously recommended the variation and laid out their reasons for the decision in writing. The project deserved the variation, they said, because there was true hardship in the configuration of the lot, Zuckswerth’s circumstances were unique, and the fence would not alter the essential character of the neighborhood.

The variation was needed because of the odd configuration of Zuckswerth’s lot. Set on a narrow lot at the corner of Byrd and Longcommon roads, the official backyard is a narrow strip of land between the east

wall of the house and the property line.

What appears to be the backyard is actually part side yard and part street yard, and setback laws limit fences from intruding into those areas.

Village trustees added some caveats to the zoning board recommendation, including that any replacement fence must be an open-style aluminum or wrought-iron fence and that the fence must be screened by plantings.

The new fence will be built behind a row of already existing bushes that frame the property to the north and west. A motion by Pollock and supported by Sussman to move the fence farther back from the Byrd Road lot line was defeated.

Sussman stated she did not consider it a hardship that certain homeowners might not be allowed by code to have a fence, and she flatly was against the variation recommendation.

“I don’t think there’s an inherent right to have a fence,” said Sussman. “I don’t think it’s the only option, and I think it’s a vast change from any place in the village.”

But Collins argued that denying the variation was unduly limiting what Zuckswerth could do with her property. The zoning code, for example, would have allowed her to build an addition to her home over the same area with no zoning variance needed at all.

“I’m very frustrated we are doing this to a petitioner,” Collins said.

Zuckswerth said she’s planning on having the fence built around Labor Day.

“I could’ve had a baby for how long it took,” she said.